The rainy forecast wasn’t part of the decor plans, but being underwater seemed to work for the 29th annual Chefs’ Tribute to Citymeals-on-Wheels and its “Summer by the Sea” theme.
For this year’s event, nearly 50 chefs from across the country served their favorite coastal dishes to 1,200 guests at Rockefeller Center’s rink area on Monday to help raise money for the organization, which delivers meals to homebound elderly New Yorkers.
“[The benefit event] used to be considered the unofficial kickoff to the summer, so we wanted to go back to that,” said Beth Shapiro, executive director of Citymeals-on-Wheels, about selecting the seashore theme.
Once again, David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group transformed the plaza for the culinary event, using restored lobster crates and nets, along with fishbowls (of the nonalcoholic variety) at the bar, to create a seaside getaway in the middle of Manhattan. Water tones, like teals and blues, dominated the signage and photo backdrop.
Given the beach motif, the fare was heavy on the seafood, including an umami seafood cocktail from Nobu Matsuhisa; an octopus salad from Bobby Flay; lobster sliders with green chili mayo from Jean-Georges Vongerichten; and scallops with black truffle and seaweed from Marc Forgione of American Cut. But there was also plenty of turf to go with the surf, including spicy Italian sausage and kielbasa from Antonio Prontelli of Rock Center Café; smoked goat tostadas from Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat; and filet mignon with pistachio salsa from Dan Silverman of the Regency Bar & Grill at Loews Regency Hotel.
In addition to the seasonal food, many of the chefs and their teams went with a playful beach vibe for their tasting stations’ table decor, using seashells, sailing rope, and ice sculptures to decorate. “We went overboard in executing against the theme,” joked Shapiro.
Noah Bless Music performed classic summer hits, like the Drifters’s “Under the Boardwalk,” to help set the mood.
Citymeals has already begun planning for next year’s tribute, which will mark the event’s 30th anniversary, but Shapiro offered no clues about the milestone celebration, saying only that it would top anything that’s been done before.
This year’s event raised more than $820,000 for the charity.